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  • Writer's pictureThe Reluctant Achiever

What are you resolving to do better this year?

Updated: 5 days ago

The Reluctant Achiever looks at New Year’s resolutions - the good, the bad and the ugly…

Golden fireworks light up the night sky - New Year celebrations - New Year's resolutions

New year, new beginning. At least that’s the idea. New Year’s resolutions are a hot topic in the press, on social media and in general conversation. We’re beating the Christmas bloat, attacking the new year with renewed positivity, armed with a to-do list as long as Tyson Fury’s left arm.

The motivation to change lights a fire in our bellies and jettisons us out of the gate on January 2nd. But where do we go from there?

Are we in it for the long haul? Or will our dream to be slimmer, better, faster, or brighter, wind up on the scrap heap of abandoned resolutions before those short January days have even drawn to a close?

In this article I look at the origins of the New Year’s resolution, why we put ourselves through this torture year after year, and some alternative ways of making the changes we truly desire.

Always look back before you look forward

Looking at the road behind through the rear view mirror

There’s something special about getting to the end of the year, don’t you think?

For most, it’s a time to take a backward glance. To take stock. And, if we’ve been fortunate, to take pride in how far we’ve advanced. For those of us whose year has been more challenging, the only reason to look back is to softly close the door for the final time before getting on with what’s to come.

Some of the first New Year’s resolutions are said to date back to the reign of Julius Caesar. Never one to shy away from controversy, during his reign the ancient Roman Emperor decided that January 1st would be the first day of the new year. Naturally, Romans turned to the god of beginnings, Janus, each year offering sacrifices and promising to be better in the new year. 

Many modern-day religions have their own versions of the New Year’s resolution too. And, religious or not, most of us will pause for thought, determined to make the coming year an improvement on the last.

The trouble with resolutions…

To make a dream a reality you need a plan - and that takes thought, time and effort. Woman thinking - chalk arrows on a black background shoot out from behind her head in all directions to demonstrate ideas

So, if we’re feeling so revved up and motivated to make changes in the New Year, why do so many resolutions crash and burn before we’ve even started?

“You know what the difference is between a dream and a goal? … A plan.” — Jodi Picoult

Sadly, never mind not getting out of the planning phase — many of us don’t even get into it.

It’s easy to pay lip service to what you want to change. Maybe you want to be 20 lbs lighter, quit smoking, get 6-pack abs, or finally get that promotion you’ve been thinking about for so long. You have to save for your dream holiday, quit eating takeaway 5 nights a week, do that headstand that’s defeated you since high school, or play a killer guitar solo. Whatever it is, at the moment it’s nothing but a dream. To make that dream a living, breathing reality takes time and effort, and a PLAN!

Of course, that’s not the only issue. If you’re an ambitious soul, then maybe you don’t want just one of the things I listed above… 

you want all of them, and then some!

But set out with too many goals, and you’re doomed to failure. No matter how great your plan is, you’ll risk finishing up burnt out and demoralised — and who wants that?

Forget resolutions — let’s talk habits

healthy habits - clean diet (meal of lean chicken and salad), dumbbells, water and a yoga mat

Sure the New Year is the perfect time to start something new or make a change you’ve been thinking about for a while. And, if your goal is weight or health-related, it makes sense to start after the festive season. But you shouldn’t wait for the perfect time. The best time to make a change is any time you are almost ready. Make a plan… and do it!

Yay to ambition. But let’s be realistic for a second… changing one habit at a time is much simpler than trying to change your whole life in the same month!

Forming a new habit isn’t an overnight process. It takes approximately 90 days for you to tell your brain, and for it to understand, that this is the new way we are doing things. So you see, running at something for a couple of weeks is not going to cut it.

In his best-selling book, ‘Atomic Habits’, James Clear breaks down how to make a new habit a success into 4 laws:

  1. Make it obvious

  2. Make it attractive

  3. Make it easy

  4. Make it satisfying

These are the key points you need to consider when making your plan, otherwise, “just do it the way I’ve always done it” will be just around the corner ready to sabotage the new you!

Don’t trust yourself to push through on motivation alone. Motivation is fleeting… what seems important when you’re wide awake and full of energy may fall to the back of the list when you’re tired and a teensy bit grumpy.

Put some thought into your habits right now. 

Here’s an example:

You’d love to be better at drawing… but when you come home tired from work it’s so easy to turn on the TV.

Then make drawing the easier and more obvious option! Unplug the TV and lay out your pencils and paper ready for when you come home.

Keep the pressure off!

It can be a long road to get where you want to be, but small consistent steps will take you there. A long straight road to the horizon at sunset.

Being realistic about what you want and how long it is going to take to get there is the only way to succeed. Be kind to yourself, but not so kind that you fall off the wagon completely at the first speed bump.

Create milestones to measure your progress, but don’t be afraid to tweak your plan to make it more realistic.

The most important thing…

is to keep moving forward!

I’ve talked about this book before — it’s called ‘The Slight Edge’ by Jeff Olson — and I believe everyone should read it at least once. As for me, I’ve read it twice already and I will surely read it again.

The core principle of ‘The Slight Edge’ is that any small action, done regularly, compounds over time to result in massive change. This can be positive or negative.

Let’s think about that for a minute…

Imagine Larry and Bob, who work in the same office, they’re the same age and neither of them ever walked anywhere for pleasure in their lives. One day Larry decides he’s going to walk around the block for 10 minutes every lunch hour. Bob however, thinks Larry has gone mad, he stays at his desk through his lunch hour the same way he’s always done. 

A month later, Larry is loving his walks. He’s already lost weight and is feeling great. He starts walking for 20 minutes a day. After 3 months, Larry meets another friend who loves to walk and they take up hiking. After 6 months, Larry hits his target weight without really trying, he’s loving life and is even thinking of going abroad on a walking holiday…

This is the ‘Slight Edge’ in action — on both sides. Larry starts with a tiny step to improve his health. Done every day, his health gets better and so does his motivation, resulting in a huge change down the line. Bob finds it equally as easy not to walk at lunchtime, he may also find it easy to increase his food intake or eat unhealthily — over time, this could result in a huge change for Bob too (but not in a way he would want).

My daughter shared something with me the other day that I’m going to share with you too…

She said, “The moment that things started to change for me was when I realised it wasn’t motivation I needed, it was discipline.”

By that, she means the discipline to move the needle forward each day towards what you want. And no matter how small the increment, it’s the direction that counts.

Celebrate your achievements

Please don’t wait until the end of the year to look back and see how far you’ve come. You deserve a pat on the back and there’s no one better to give it to you than yourself. 

A celebration doesn't need to be a grand gesture. It could be as simple as a relaxing bubble bath or some time to yourself to read a new book. Picture shows a woman sitting on a rock beside a lake reading a book.

Keep a healthy measure of your progress and don’t be afraid to treat yourself to something that makes you smile and helps you to stay on track. It could be as simple as a chilled-out, bubbly bath, or a new book!

The moral of the story…

  • The New Year is a great time to make a change — but there’s no ‘right time’, start whenever you like. The sooner, the better!

  • Put the meat on the bones of your dream by setting a concrete goal and making a plan

  • Avoid overwhelm and burnout by not tackling too many resolutions at once

  • It takes 90 days to kick an existing habit or make a new one

  • Make your new habit obvious, attractive, easy and satisfying

  • Be realistic about what you can achieve and be kind to yourself

  • Even baby steps, done consistently, will get you where you want to go… if you keep moving forward!

Cheers to your success in 2024! A woman stands on the top of a hill looking out over the valley to a dormant volcano beyond.

Whatever your resolution for 2024, I’m cheering you on all the way!

Much love and encouragement,

The Reluctant Achiever x

The Reluctant Achiever is written by freelance copywriter, lifelong learner, outdoor lover and personal development junkie, Wendy Ann Jones.

For further information on working with Wendy, please check out or follow her on LinkedIn, Instagram or Facebook.


The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson


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